Having had a “senior moment” on Monday, sitting down and ordering, almost automatically, at Papa’s, Newlands, when I meant to be next door at Blue Banana (Thai)/Baobab Grill (Zimbo steakhouse) twin operation, I returned to Newlands two days later, hitting the right target.
I wasn’t to know proprietors Heath and Lee Stewart had launched an alliterative Wednesday Wok on the Wild Side menu of stir-fries, but soon took advantage of a real value-for-money one-plate deal at $8.
Having had, presumably, another “senior moment” or two I’ve managed to lose the two flyers Heath gave me detailing the Wednesday wok deal, also Meaty Mondays, but I’m pretty sure I can recall details almost verbatim.
On Wednesdays you can choose between chicken, pork and beef in a sweet and sour sauce, with a Thai paste base or Chinese oyster sauce; with rice or noodles as the starch.
Blue Banana offers piquant, popular Asian fusion food, not strictly Thai cuisine. Their Indian lamb curry is especially good, if not exactly bargain basement, at $18.
From the special I ordered a gweilo-Cantonese chop-suey shop favourite: sweet and sour pork with noodles which, at US$8 given the grand quality of the dish and generous helping, probably does belong in the bargain basement department.
I sat on the stoep, sipping Castle Lager not quite as cold as I would have liked and relishing the merest hint of breeze on yet another sweltering, shimmering, cloudless lunch hour.
Like my place at Eastlea, Newlands had been without Zesa for about 21 of the previous 28 hours. Sounds of Africa were all around! (The hum of countless generators battling to keep food fresh, ice frozen, drinks reasonably chilled !) What can I say?
It was a dish just as hoped for, taking me back to my first exciting days of discovering Chinese cuisine well over 50 years ago.
Pork was plentiful, lean, a mere blush off pure white and as tender as a nun’s heart. I thought the individual chunky balls of dead nguruve may have benefited from being cut perhaps a third less bulky for those who eat with authentic chopsticks.
I cut mine in half with a spoon edge. The sweet and sour sauce had a pukkah tint of cochineal in the blend and the sweet didn’t totally overwhelm sour elements. Batter was crisp, golden and crunchy.
My pasta noodles were perfectly al dente; a pleasant mélange of finely chopped or juilienned young fresh veg and mushrooms added colour, texture and flavour.
I suggest you go there soon on a Wednesday; take someone you care for with conversational skills more advanced than that of a gnat! and order what I had, plus (say) stir-fried beef with oyster sauce and rice to mix-and-match!
Presentation was pleasing to eye and palate and Heath produced flavours which lingered hauntingly long after the last mouthful.
It would have been sufficient for most folk, but I felt slightly hungry and it is difficult to write a balanced restaurant review based on one dish.
In the Far East, soup’s often eaten at the end of a meal, or with mains, rather than as the conventional starter or appetiser we know it as in the West. (But the Japanese and Koreans have a pungent miso soup for breakfast!) So I finished with soup (well, almost . . . read on!)
Chicken soup sounds misleadingly prosaic.
This particular potage had loads of white huku flesh, probably from the breast, then shredded, gorgeous sliced mushrooms, still retaining their woody, earthy flavour, assorted diced veg and herbs, strong in coriander and a mere hint of chilli.
It was deep, intense, punchy with a slight lingering after-burn justifying a last local lager. It’s called tom kha gai in Thai and worth every cent of $6.
I suspect puddings aren’t big with Thailanders.
(They’re unheard of in Korea!) But ordered a vaguely Siamese-sounding coconut-banana, which proved to be a delightful grown-up children’s sweet of a log cabin-like construction of sliced bananas, rolled in desiccated coconut, deep-fried to a golden brown, trickled with syrup, anointed with a dollop of ice-cream sprinkled in 100s and 1000s, which were then dribbled in a pale, thin chocolate sauce at $4.
If you got the opinion I enjoyed this repast: well done! you’re bang on the money. I didn’t fancy returning to work. An hour’s Egyptian PT, followed by a wake-up swim would have been just the ticket!
I liked Blue Banana’s Wednesday Wok on the Wild Side and will go soon for Baobab Grill’s Meaty Mondays which offers a baby chicken, T-bone or ribs, with chips, onion rings and salad at $12.
Wednesday wok special, premium soup, dessert, three local lagers: $24.